Conducted by the IC3 Institute between June and July 2020, the Student Quest survey focused on 2,252 high school students from India and Nepal, asking key questions about the impact of Covid-19 on the students’ current and future study plans.

“Students were most deterred by concerns about personal safety and unfavourable immigration policies”

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, almost three-quarters (73%) plan to attend higher education, with just 7% opting for a gap year.

Overall, 33.5% of the students said they plan to study abroad in the immediate future (29%) or after a gap year (4.5%).

Perceptions of a less-welcoming stance towards international students in the US were shown not to be a deterrent for two-thirds of all students who selected it as a top destination, followed by the UK, Canada, Australia and Singapore.

Credit: IC3

When it comes to students’ motivations for studying abroad in the first place, the survey explained that students are driven more by the “pull” factors or the appeal of key destinations rather than “push” factors at home that force them to seek opportunities overseas.

“Students are most drawn by the quality of education abroad, and most deterred by concerns about personal safety and unfavourable immigration policies,” the survey read.

The ability to gain work experience after graduation was shown to be a significant priority for international students.

“The rescinding of UK post-study work rights in 2012 triggered a steep drop in Indian enrolments at British universities, a clear indication of how important working overseas after graduation is to these students and as supported in our current findings where 88% of students reported the importance of such opportunities,” explained the survey.

Credit: IC3

When asked about their post-study plans after completing their undergraduate degree in their country of choice, the majority reported wanting to stay back in the country either for further education (35%) or for future employment (27%).

Just 8% reported that they planned to return home.

Speaking about the survey, Rajika Bhandari, president & CEO of the IC3 Institute, said a time when India has just released its first new National Education Policy, the findings offer a window into whether a large number of Indian and Nepalese youth are prepared for their educational and professional futures, especially when both higher education and careers have been disrupted by Covid-19.

“More Indian students are now seriously considering some of India’s top public and private high-quality institutions”

“It is certainly the case that more Indian students are now seriously considering some of India’s top public and private high-quality institutions as a serious option as opposed to just a back-up should an overseas admission not materialise,” she told The PIE News.

However, given that India has the world’s largest youth population, Bhandari explained that the demand for a quality higher education continues to outstrip the supply, “and this demand will need to be met both by the rapid expansion of the higher education sector in India, as well as by other countries that continue to attract Indian students”.

“Even though the Indian government has recently reiterated its intent to internationalise the higher education sector, this intent and efforts are not new and we will have to wait and see whether they move the needle this time around,” she added.

The survey also showed that students have been resilient in the face of the disruptions caused by Covid-19 and are eager to return to the way things were prior to the pandemic.

Some 72% disagreed that online education would be a good substitute for in-person teaching and learning, at a time when there has been much discussion within the secondary and postsecondary sectors that the pandemic could potentially displace a traditional in-person learning environment with a virtual one.

“At the same time, students surveyed were found to recognise the need for adaptability during this volatile period and are focusing on skills development and online education to better prepare themselves for future college applications,” the survey concluded.

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